If an unknowing football fan was helicoptered in for the Eagles' scrimmage on Sunday at the Linc, they would have come away with one major observation.
“That No. 94 is gonna break the sack record this year.”
Of course, Josh Sweat isn't going to break the sack record this year. He's not going to be an All-Pro and, barring injuries, he's most likely not going to be a starter. But the Eagles need him to take another step this season.
It would help them an awful lot if Sweat could carry over some of his training camp heroics into the regular season.
On Sunday, Sweat had three or four sacks and constant pressure working with the first team against the new “starting” left tackle Matt Pryor. So his success in the scrimmage should be taken with a grain of salt. Pryor was clearly out of position — that's a whole other situation — and Sweat should have feasted on him.
But let's not take anything away from Sweat either. Because he looked good before that. The scrimmage was just the cherry on top of a really good training camp.
“Oh, I'm loving it,” Brandon Graham said. “That boy Josh Sweat, I've been talking to him a lot too, because I told him, ‘You got an opportunity and you got to make sure you seize it.' And I think he's doing a really great job of just showing people what he's been showing the last couple years.
“He's gotten better every year and the confidence, you can tell his confidence is through the roof. And somebody that I could see, he's gonna be here for a minute if he continues to keep on progressing like he's doing.”
Sweat, still just 23, is entering his third NFL season in 2020. The long pass rusher was drafted in the fourth round out of Florida State back in 2018 and he began to show his potential last season after putting on more weight. He basically split snaps as the third defensive end with Vinny Curry. That will likely be the case this year too, but the Eagles would love for Sweat to really take control of that role.
The Eagles' edge pass rush was at its best in 2017 and 2018 when they had Chris Long coming off the bench as a legitimate pass rush threat. Heck, in 2018, they had Long and Michael Bennett.
Sweat seemingly has the potential to play a lot and really help the team in 2020 if he continues his progression.
- 2018: 9 games, 68 snaps (7%), 1 tackle
- 2019: 16 games, 352 snaps (35%), 21 tackles, 4 sacks, 7 TFLs, 10 QB hits
- 2020: ???
It seems like Sweat will have some opportunity. While the Eagles re-signed Curry, he's 32 now. So is Brandon Graham. And the other starter, Derek Barnett, is already dealing with an injury to start the fourth season in what has been an injury-plagued career.
“A lot of our stuff with our defensive line is a lot of repeatable motion,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said earlier this summer. “I think anybody that's covered baseball, with pitchers, they talk about repeatable motion, and the guys that have a repeatable motion are consistent around the strike zone. The guys that don't, they can throw a wicked pitch and get a strikeout, and then can't find the strike zone after that.
“Josh is making really good strides toward that, having a repeatable motion at defensive end, and it looks the same all the time and that consistency has shown, and as a result, I think his production has shown a little bit more.”
That's the thing with Sweat. The potential was always there. The first day he walked into the NovaCare Complex it was hard to not think about guys like Jevon Kearse and other lanky but athletic pass rushers. And even in his rookie season, there were flashes from Sweat.
But Sweat's success will be determined by his ability to turn those flashes into consistent play. He was able to begin that process in 2018.
If he keeps it going, he could become an even more important part of the Eagles' rotation in 2020.